|Sun, Mar 18, 2018 12:56 AM
|Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
|The plight of the 'undocumented worker'|
By Roger E. Hernandez
You have to go back to the Pat Buchanan campaigns to find a major presidential candidate who liked the term "illegal alien."
In three recent speeches by George W. Bush — the State of the Union on Jan. 20, his Jan. 7 talk on immigration reform and his radio address the following weekend — the phrase was absent. Instead, the president used "undocumented worker" or some variation thereof (like "undocumented men and women") six times. His favorite was "temporary worker," which he used 13 times even though there can be no such category until some sort of immigration reform is passed.
Similar thing with the Democratic candidates. No "illegal aliens."
At Joseph Lieberman's Web site — which, by the way, has by far the most detailed immigration-reform proposal — the preference is "undocumented immigrant," which shows up 20 times. "Temporary worker" appears just twice.
At John Kerry's, I found one instance of "undocumented young people" and one of "undocumented worker."
At Howard Dean's, just one mention of "undocumented immigrants." There's also a reference to "immigrants who are detained."
At Wesley Clark's, "undocumented workers" and "temporary worker" appear once each.
And John Edwards' site — the only one that does not have a section specifically devoted to immigration policy —managed to avoid such terms altogether.
The disappearance, pretty much, of "illegal aliens" from mainstream political discourse is a good thing. I think back to the early to mid-1990s, when I used to get floods of mail from Angry White Males (remember them?) about "illegal aliens" being "criminals."
What's more, the "alien" part of "illegal alien" is, well, alienating. It makes them more strange, more outlandish, more otherworldish than need be. It's only used by frothing-at-the-mouth xenophobes.
Immigration reform is important for the economy, for national security, for humanitarian reasons, and not least of all as a reflection of America's values. A good place to start is by using the most accurate, least loaded term to describe whom we are talking about — and that's "illegal immigrants."
Cuban-born Roger Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.